Good Bye

Good Bye

By Drus1lla

Rating: NC17 in parts
Summary: Angel has a dream, prompting him to return to Sunnydale, but is he too late?
Notes: This story took me a long time to write. I got feedback from my little support group I have, they know who they are, and they asked me to include things, hence the length. Some parts are better than others, of this I am aware. I appreciate feedback, I thrive on it actually. Disclaimer: I do not own the characters used within this story, nor the lyrics to the songs I use. The characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. The songs belong to Sarah McLachlan and Will Jennings. Of the poems used within this story, the only one I wrote, is the one titled 'If Only,' which can also be found at this site. The poem Goodbye was written by Julia L., only a portion of it is used. She runs the Tangled in Destiny website, the poem Set it Free, does not belong to me, I got it off a collage someone sent to a list I subscribe to.

***

She stood there talking to Giles, she looked so tired. He spoke to her, then walked away towards Wesley who was being loaded into an ambulance. He could tell that she knew he was there, for she raised her gaze and turned to look for him. He stood his ground, ignoring the pleas of both their hearts to just run to her arms where he belonged. As the smoke rose around him he watched her, and she watched him. Angel could feel the tears springing to his eyes as he forced himself to simply turn and walk away.

Three years had passed since the day of the Mayor's Ascension, three years since he had held her in his arms. Angel sat at his desk, gazing at her picture instead of concentrating on the work he had to do. He could hear Cordelia and Doyle outside the door, their constant flirting was annoying to him. The phone rang, and he knew neither one of them would make a move to answer it.

"Hello?"

"Cordelia?" a familiar voice asked.

"Willow?"

"Angel, hi. Is Cordelia around?"

"Yea, she's here. How're you?"

"I'm good. College, it's going great. That whole deal."

"How is," he couldn't bear to say her name, he tried not to think of her but he couldn't stop himself, "everyone?"

Willow knew what he was asking. He really did care to ask about the Scooby Gang, but she knew he really wanted to know about Buffy. "Not so good," she replied honestly. The truth was Buffy was dying, and whether he meant to be or not, Angel was the cause.

A few weeks ago Willow and Cordelia were having one of their weekly telephone conversations. The two of them had kept in touch, just so that if anything were to happen to Angel or Buffy the other would know. They had been on the phone when Cordelia had shocked Willow with the news that Angel had started seeing someone. Her name was Kate and she was a detective from the LAPD.

Somehow Buffy had heard part of their conversation, and had not been the same since. It was Oz who had first noticed the change in her. She looked as though she weren't sleeping or eating. As though the life had gone out of her completely.

Spike had also become really concerned, and Willow knew that out of the whole gang, he spent the most time with her. Since he had returned the two of them had connected almost immediately, even to the point that he had moved into the apartment that Buffy, Willow, and Oz had been sharing.

Willow could hear Buffy crying at night, and she knew that the tears had started after the last conversation with Cordelia. Her long silence had done nothing to reassure Angel, as he questioned her again. "What's wrong with her?"

Willow couldn't help the anger and contempt that laced her voice. "What do you care?"

Angel was stunned by that. Of all of Buffy's friends, Willow had always been on their side. He couldn't understand where her sudden vehemence was coming from. "What's wrong with you?"

She could hear the pain in his voice, but at this point she really didn't care. Her best friend was in so much pain, all because of him. "She's dying, Angel. Spike didn't have anything to do with it, if that's what you're thinking. He's actually been here for her, helping her. If it wasn't for him, she would be dead already."

"I don't understand."

"How could you?" there was accusation in her voice. "You preach to her about wanting her to have a normal life, because there are things you can't give her and then you start seeing someone else?!"

"I...Willow..." he stammered.

"Yeah, well she tried the normal life thing and it wasn't working! She had to hide the fact about who she is with everybody. She got hurt really badly, and I know it's going to be really mean of me to say this, but it's all your fault. Before she had hope that you actually might come back, but it's obvious you've made your life there with Kate. Well I hope you're happy."

A single tear ran down Angel's cheek as the line went dead. He wiped it away and stood up quickly. He was going back to Sunnydale. He stormed out of his office, leaving a very bewildered looking Doyle and Cordelia in his wake.

Spike sat by Buffy's bed, his head in his hands as she lay there asleep. Everyone was right, he had gone soft. Here he was actually feeling bad that the Slayer was slowly slipping away. He stared out at the starless night, at the ocean crashing against the sand. This wasn't the way she was supposed to die. Even he knew that.

He knew that she had simply lost the will to live. She didn't want to go on without him, without Angel.

The bloody wanker! He threw a pillow violently across the room. He knew that if he ever saw Angel again that he would kill him. He had come to care quite deeply for Buffy. In the last three years they had faced a lot together, and somehow it was comforting that they could always talk to each other without worrying about judgment. A knock sounded on the door. That would be Giles, coming to meet him for patrol. Buffy was too weak now.

Spike ran his hands through his hair as he opened the door.

"How is she doing today?"

"Ey, Giles. She's not better, but at least she's not worse."

"I keep thinking there's something more I can do for her."

"There's nothing any of us can do now. Unless I make her a vampire, and I don't fancy doing that."

Giles stared at Spike in shock. "No, I don't think that would be wise."

"Has anyone, called him?" He didn't even want to mention Angel's name. At one time in his unlife he would have been perfectly overjoyed to make either one of them suffer. Now his rage was directed completely at Angel.

"Willow, called Cordelia today but wasn't able to talk to her. She went into one of her tirades, he picked up the phone."

The front door opened as Willow and Oz walked in. "Hey Spike," Oz greeted. "Giles."

"I'm not going to patrol tonight," Spike said, removing the duster he had just finished putting on. "I'm going to stay with her."

Everyone had been amazed at the change in Spike, but they knew he cared for Buffy as deeply as they did. He walked back into her darkened bedroom, taking her hand in his as he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Angel?" she whispered.

"I'm here," came the soft reply.

Spike turned to see Angel standing in the doorway to her bedroom. "What're you doing here?" he growled.

"Willow called. Told me," he broke off.

"Are you happy? Leaving her for someone else really was the best thing, can you tell?" "Spike?" her weak voice asked.

He looked back to her. She was clutching his hand, tears slowly spilling forth from her eyes. "Right here, pet."

"I'm so tired."

"How can you be tired? you've been asleep all day," he scolded, as he gently caressed her face. Angel was amazed at the tender way he was speaking to the girl who's life he'd once tried to take.

"Please," came her faint plea.

"You know I won't do that. Let me get you something to eat, you've got to get better."

"I don't want to. Haven't I done enough? I've fought back more demons than I want to remember. I just want it over."

"Yeah but it's not your time yet Luv. I'll be right back, sit tight." He got up, glancing contemptuously at Angel before he walked through the door.

"That was quick," she murmured as she felt someone's weight press onto the mattress.

Angel took her hand in his, then leaned over kissing her lips softly. She opened her eyes, looking into his dark ones. He brushed her hair away from her face tenderly.

"Angel? It's not really you. I'm dreaming again."

"No, you're not. I'm here," he whispered. "Buffy?"

"Will you do something for me?"

"Anything," he answered.

"Hold me?"

He carefully picked her up, shocked at how frail she had become. He held her small body close to his. It felt right her being in his arms again. They felt right together.

"I love you," she whispered as she closed her eyes, and took her last breath.

"Buffy? Buffy, wake up!"

Spike, Giles, Willow, and Oz all rushed into the room at Angel's shouts. Buffy had died in her Angel's arms.

The full moon shone down upon the people gathered in the graveyard. Giles, Spike, Cordelia, Doyle, Xander, Joyce, Willow, Oz, and Angel all stood watching as the casket holding Buffy's body was lowered into the ground. Willow was clinging to Oz, sobbing uncontrollably over the death of her best friend. The platinum vampire next to them was grieving as well, tears running down his cheeks as he and Giles tried to console the Slayer's mother. As the men began to shovel the dirt into the six foot hole, Spike stepped forward and threw a white rose down with the casket. Angel looked up as each of Buffy's friends came forward,each with a flower of their own.

As everyone turned to leave, Oz approached Angel. "Hey man."

"I'm surprised you're talking to me."

"Well, there's something Buffy asked me to do. I'm sure she would've asked Spike or Will, but you're not really their favorite person right now. I promised her." Oz reached into his coat and handed Angel a thick envelope. "She asked me to give this to you. She wanted you to listen to the tape inside before you read the letter."

"Thank you," he whispered as more tears streamed from his eyes. He turned away from the other people and made his way to his car. He opened the parchment, removing the tape and popping it into the cassette player. As he sat and listened to the song she had recorded, the tears fell harder.

I will remember you. Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.
Remember the good times that we had?
I let them slip away from us when things got bad.
How clearly I first saw you, smilin' in the sun.
Wanna feel your warmth upon me, I wanna be the one.
I will remember you. Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.
I'm so tired, but I can't sleep. Standin' on the edge of something much too deep.
It's funny how we feel so much, but we cannot say a word.
We are screaming inside, but we can't be heard.
But I will remember you. Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.
I'm so afraid to love you, but more afraid to lose.
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose.
Once there was a darkness, deep and endless night.
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me light!
And I will remember you. Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.
And I will remember you. Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.
Weep not for the memories.

He took the tape from the player, crushing it in his hand as he removed her letter from the envelope.

My Dearest Angel,
I have tried so hard to be brave. For a while it looked as though I were succeeding. But I realized my true happiness would always be with you. I heard this song, and it reminded me of everything we've been through. I think about you every minute, and I wonder if you remember me at all. I remember the things that you said, and the truth is that I don't know how much you love me. I know how much I love you, and being apart, it hurts so much. I've tried to have the normal life you wanted for me, but I can't escape my destiny. I can't escape who I am. I know you've started over, made a new life for yourself. The thought that you don't love me anymore, that that's why you left me, haunts me all the time. I know you didn't want to say goodbye, but I had to tell you how much I love you. Buffy

Angel sat up in his bed in a cold sweat. It had been months since he had left Sunnydale, and Buffy. Of all the nightmares he had, this one had been the worst. In this one he hadn't been able to save her. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed, walking to the bathroom. He splashed water on his face, trying to wash the memory from his mind.

He walked through his apartment, turning the radio on as he went. He picked the mail up from the floor, going through the bills. He came to a letter with Buffy's familiar writing on the envelope. He stared at the envelope as the song he had heard in his dream came over the radio. He made no move to change the station as he numbly tore the envelope open. If his heart had been beating it would've stopped as he read Buffy's letter. The letter he had received in his dream.

He quickly got dressed, and waited for the sun to set. As soon as it had, he jumped into his car and drove to Sunnydale. He had made it there in two hours, now all he had to do was find her. He tried the Bronze first, she was usually there with her friends at night, or at least she used to be there. He stood in the shadows, unnoticed as he searched for her.

The crowd on the dance floor parted slightly, and there she was. She was dancing with Spike, and they were talking about something. His throat tightened at the sight of her in Spike's arms. It took him a moment to realize that she was crying and Spike was trying to soothe her. He wiped the tears from her face as the two of them went to go join everyone else on the couches. Willow and Oz were snuggled together as usual, while Xander was sitting slightly apart from them sipping on coffee.

Buffy and Spike sat down next to each other across from the gang, as they quickly became involved in the ongoing conversation. He didn't like the way the two of them were so close. Spike had his arm about her shoulders, her body was leaning against his, using his chest as a pillow. Had they started seeing each other? Why would she get involved with a vampire again, and Spike of all vampires?! The two of them stood up and headed for the exit, Buffy waving goodbye as she went.

Angel waited a few moments, then quietly followed them. They were walking along slowly, going on patrol. It was obvious that Spike was now helping Buffy, as they came upon a group of vampires the two of them quickly dispatched their attackers. He watched the grace with which they moved together, the routine they had perfected. Something that he and Buffy had once shared.

He stayed back far enough so that they wouldn't suspect his presence, but close enough so that he could hear their conversation. He was surprised to find that he was the topic of discussion.

"So you sent the letter?" Spike asked.

"I can't believe I did, I should know better. If he really wanted to be with me," she stopped, the tears and emotions constricting her throat.

"It's hard," he said as he stopped in front of her. His hand reached out, tipping her chin up to face him. "But somehow you make do and slip into a pattern to keep yourself going. You can't live in the present and dwell on the past."

Buffy closed her eyes, then gave Spike a fierce hug. He held her tightly, one hand holding her head to his chest. "Let's just go home, I've got to write a poem for class."

"Ah poetry," he said, as he held her. He took her hand in his as they started walking away. "What rhymes with lungs?"

"What?" she asked, a confused look on her face.

"Just a little joke."

"Sometimes I don't understand your humor."

The two of them made their way to the house they shared with Willow and Oz. It had four bedrooms, plenty of space for everyone. It was right near the beach, something the girls had insisted on. Spike's room was on the bottom floor. They had sun-proofed it, as well as gotten a small refrigerator for him to keep his blood in. Willow and Oz shared a room together, and Buffy's room had a balcony that led onto the beach. The fourth room was set aside for Xander, who would stay with them when he wasn't off on one of his road trips.

Angel watched Buffy as she got ready for bed and sat down at her desk to do her homework. She slid the door open that exited onto her balcony, the soft sound of music emanating from her radio. She sat hunched over a notebook, writing furiously as the music brought the poetry forth from her heart. The music she was listening to was so sad, she thought of Angel as the singer voiced all the pain she kept locked inside.

Buffy put down her pen and walked onto the balcony, watched the waves as they rolled onto the shore. She rubbed her arms against the slight chill, her gaze falling on a person standing out on the sand. She turned and walked back inside, shutting the door behind her. She switched off her light, then climbed under the covers and surrendered to sleep, and the dreams she knew would inevitably come.

Angel could hear the muffled sounds of music still coming from her stereo. She had left it on, listening to the words that carried so much meaning for her as she cried softly into her pillow.

What ravages of spirit, conjured this temptuous rage
Created you a monster, broken by the rule of love.
And fate has led you through it, You do what you have to do
And fate has led you through it, You do what you have to do
And I have the sense to recognize, that I don't know how to let you go
Every moment marked with apparitions of your soul
I'm ever swiftly moving, trying to escape this desire.
The yearning to be near you, I do what I have to do
The yearning to be near you, I do what I have to do.
And I have the sense to recognize, that I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go
A glowing ember, burning hot, and burning slow
Deep within I'm shaken by the violence of existing for only you
I know I can't be with you, I do what I have to do
I know I can't be with you, I do what I have to do
And I have the sense to recognize, but I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go....

"Miss Summers?" Buffy looked up at her poetry teacher. "Would you like to read your poem for the class?"

"I, well it's kind of personal."

"All poetry is personal. Poetry comes from the heart, something that you yearn for. I promise not to be too critical. Please, read."

Buffy stood up, and nervously brushed her hair behind her ears. She picked up her notebook and turned to the poem she had written after she and Spike had gotten in from patrol.

If Only.....
I see him standing there, so close yet so far away.
My heart calls out to his, begging him not to go, not to leave me again.
I don't know how to let him go.
Every memory we have shared, flashes through my mind.
Since I came here, he has been a part of my life.
How do I go on without him?
How do I tell my heart it can't have him?
So I stand and I stare, and my heart shatters completely,
As he turns and walks away from me.
If only I had denied what I felt for him from the beginning.
If only we had listened when we said our love could never be.
If only....

She sat down quickly, oblivious to the stares around her. It had taken all her willpower not to cry as she read the words. She looked up at the teacher,waiting for his comments.

"That was very good. I have to ask if he's a real person." She nodded her head slightly, indicating that indeed he was. "Very good, I look forward to see what else you'll share with us."

Buffy made her way across the campus towards the library. Perhaps Giles would have some new demon she would have to fight, anything to take her mind from her memories. It was a good thing he had been able to get a position as a librarian at UC Sunnydale, seeing as they'd blown up the library at the high school.

She walked through the main entrance, making her way up to the floor Giles worked on, and where he kept his collection of the books they needed. She still had to get used to the fact that people were around, college students actually used the library.

She stepped out of the elevator and made her way back to Giles' office. He was helping some students find some books, and smiled at her as she walked inside. She dropped her backpack on the floor and settled into a chair as she waited for him.

"Hey," a voice called to her.

"Oh hi," she answered looking up at the student who stood in the doorway.

"Can I?" he asked gesturing to come in.

"I well, not my office. Who're you?"

"My name's Riley Finn. I'm in your poetry class."

"Oh," she said as she stood up. She shook his extended hand, "Buffy Summers."

"I was wondering, well, if maybe you'd like to grab a cup of coffee or something?"

"Coffee?" The memory of a similar conversation immediately came to her mind. *What're you saying, you want to have a date? Right, you just want to have coffee or something."*

"Hot beverage. Unless you don't like coffee, then maybe dinner."

She thought for a moment before answering. She was tired of being alone, of longing for someone who didn't want her. He had left her to get on with her life, something he thought she should have. "Okay," she heard herself answer.

"Great, um why don't you give me your address and I'll pick you up at eight?"

She nodded and wrote down the information for him. As she handed him the paper, Giles walked towards his office. "Buffy, we have a, hello," he said acknowledging Riley's presence. "Do you need help finding something?"

"Yeah, I need to check out this book," he said handing Giles a slip of paper, "for Mythology Class."

"Ah, this particular volume cannot be checked out," Giles said as he walked to a locked cabinet. He removed a book on vampire folklore, one that Buffy knew well. He handed it to the boy, then turned back to his desk.

"Bye," Buffy said as Riley turned to sit and copy information from Giles' book. "You were saying?" she said as she threw the door shut and turned to face Giles.

"Yes, we have a new demon on our hands."

"Good demon, bad demon?"

"Good, it would seem. His name is Doyle, he has visions of the future. He's not in Sunnydale, Los Angeles actually. Cordelia put me in touch with him."

"He works with Angel," Buffy told him quietly.

"Well, uh, yes. At any rate, I thought it best to keep you informed. I suppose just patrol tonight, and you and Spike don't kill each other."

"I think we can handle that. I'll do an early sweep, then one after I get home."

"You going somewhere?"

"Apparently I have a date," she said as she stood up. She picked up her bag, and walked to the door. "I'll see you tomorrow," she told him as she headed off to her next class.

Riley stopped her as she made her way to the elevators. "I'm looking forward to tonight, Buffy."

"Me too, " she supplied. "I'll see ya."

"Why the hell did I agree to this?!"

Willow looked up at Buffy from her perch on the bed. Buffy was standing before her mirror, messing with her hair. "You lack a guy, you have to get in date mode. How're those for answers?"

She turned around to look at her friend who was smiling slightly. She picked up her pants from the bed and slipped them on under her robe. Willow came up behind her and handed her a clip for her hair. "Thanks," she mumbled. Buffy took the silver cross Angel had given her from its place on her dresser and fastened it around her neck. She opened her jewelry box, her claddagh ring lay inside, slightly apart from her other jewelry on a bed of red silk. She touched the ring for a moment, debating whether or not to slip it onto her finger where it belonged. She shut the box, then turned to face Willow.

"So, how do I look?"

"Going somewhere, luv?" Spike asked from the doorway.

"I have a date," she answered as the doorbell rang. "Want to get that?"

Spike walked downstairs to the front door where a kid stood, presumably Buffy's date. "Can I help you?"

"I'm here to pick up, Buffy." v"Come in," Spike led him to the living room. "She'll be right down."

"Riley Finn, and you are?"

"Hey Spike," Oz called as he came in from another room. "Oh hey," he said, noticing Riley. He quickly shoved the stake he held in his hand into his pocket. "We having a party?"

"Uh no, this is..."

"Riley Finn," Riley said, shaking Oz's hand.

"Oz," he replied.

"Spike," Spike answered. So this was Buffy's date? He looked like he'd make a good meal.

"Don't even think about it," he heard the Slayer whisper in his ear. He turned around, she and Willow had come downstairs.

Spike smiled at Buffy, "I wouldn't dream of it, well actually I probably would."

Willow and Oz couldn't help but laugh since they both knew what Spike was probably thinking. "Hi, Riley," Buffy said, as she smiled softly.

Spike surprised everyone in the room by taking Buffy in his arms and dipping her low to the ground. Her eyes went wide as he smiled, "Now young lady, curfew is what time again?"

"Let me up!" she said as she playfully hit him.

He stood her up, then looked sternly at Riley. "Not too late now."

Buffy and Riley walked out the door, leaving Oz, Willow and Spike alone. "Do you think it'll go well?" Willow asked, breaking the silence.

"I hope so," Oz replied.

"I don't like him," Spike answered. "Can I eat him?"

"Somehow, I don't think Buffy would like that," Oz said in his usual deadpan.

Spike picked up his duster, pulling it on as he walked to the door. "I'll see you guys later. I'm going to patrol. It's been too long since I had a decent spot of violence."

Oz and Willow both giggled as the vampire made his way outside. "Want to help me with something?" Willow asked her boyfriend.

"Name it."

She leaned forward and whispered in his ear, even though they were alone. He smiled, then led her upstairs to their bedroom.

Buffy sat silently as Riley drove them to the restaurant where he had made reservations. "So is Spike, like, your boyfriend?"

"No," she answered. "He's just a friend. A very annoying friend who thinks he can always give opinions, even when they're not wanted."

"Like a brother type?"

"Almost, but not really."

When they arrived at the restaurant, Riley quickly ran around the car to open the door for Buffy. "Thank you," she said, as she took his hand.

"So your poem, in class," Riley began, as they sat over dinner.

"It wasn't very good."

"No it was. Sounded very personal. So you were saying, that the guy you wrote about, he's real."

"Yea," she answered quietly. "He's in LA right now."

"You miss him?"

"Why do you ask?"

"You just all of a sudden got this far away look in your eye. Like you're thinking about him."

"I try not to, but it's hard."

"Trying to move on?"

"Basically."

"Well I hope that you and I can become good friends, maybe I can help."

"We'll see," she whispered, before turning back to her food.

Riley walked Buffy up to her door, waiting as she took her keys from her purse. "I had a really good time tonight, Buffy. Maybe we could do it again?"

"I'd like that. Well I'll see you in class tomorrow."

"Yeah, can't wait to hear your next poem."

"Right, which means I better go inside and actually write it."

"It's usually a good idea."

"Well, good night," she said, then turned and went inside.

Buffy walked up to her bedroom, flipping on the lights and the radio. She quickly changed her clothes, then sat down to write. For some reason, she could still only think of Angel. She looked down at the cross around her neck, then picked up her pen and put it to the paper.

Goodbye
I gave you my heart, and you gave me your soul.
You're leaving me now, unfinished, unwhole.
You tried to protect me, but we couldn't hold on.
The more that we loved, the stronger the bond.
That first time I saw you, you thought was the end.
I never imagined, a lover, a friend . . .
A person who'd journey to Hell, and then back.
Without you I'm hollow-you're the piece that I lack.
We put aside a love of ages, each aching to escape the cages
In which we'd bound each other apart, hoping each would have the heart
To stay away from those painted bars, and give life time to heal the scars.
But as you walked away, neither could lie.
What I would have said was, "I love you," instead of "goodbye."

Buffy sat down, as the next person rose to read their poem. Riley looked over at her and smiled. She smiled back, then looked at the words she'd written. Why couldn't she stop thinking about him? Here was this perfectly nice guy, who was obviously interested in her, and all she could do was think about Angel.

The hour was up and she quickly escaped the room. All she wanted was to curl up in bed, to flee from her memories if only for a moment. She looked down at the chain around her throat. Why did she do this to herself? She was still wearing the cross, his first gift to her. Her hand immediately went to her neck, tracing the scar he had left behind. She had few things from him other than her memories, her cross, her ring, and his mark on her flesh...

"You look like you're about to cry."

"Riley. Just remembering."

"Anything I can do?"

She swallowed and shook her head no. "I just have to forget."

"It sounds like you've really been hurt."

"If you knew the half of it."

"So tell me."

"I can't. There are things in my life that you wouldn't understand. Fate just sometimes deals you a bad hand."

"Well I know how to take your mind off it."

"How?"

"Let me talk to you about my mythology class. Very interesting stuff. You know some people believe that at one point mythology was based on fact. Like take for instance vampires."

"Vampires?"

"Yeah, the belief is that demons used to..."

"Roam the earth for untold eons. They lost their purchase on reality and vampires were created when the last demon to leave mixed his blood with that of a human, thus creating vampires."

"How did you know? Have you taken this class?"

"Giles, he's kind of into this stuff."

"Giles? Oh, you mean that librarian?"

"Yea, he used to be librarian at our high school. He would tell us all sorts of stuff."

"It's really very interesting. I like to learn about it."

"Yeah, it's neat."

"Well, I've got to get to class. I'll call you later?"

"Sure," she answered.

She watched him walk away, then headed for home.

The phone rang, and Willow rushed to answer it as she dropped her books on the floor. "Hello?"

"Willow?"

"Cordelia?"

"Thank God! I've been trying to get ahold of you guys. I didn't want to leave a message though. Is Buffy home?"

"No, as far as I know, she's still at school."

"Listen, I know this is going to sound strange, but have you guys heard from Angel? Or seen him?"

"Angel, here? No. If Buffy or Spike have seen him, they haven't mentioned it to me."

"He took off a few days ago. We haven't heard from him, and Doyle's been having some really weird visions. I can't go into detail right now. Hey, are you still practicing your magic tricks?"

"Yeah," she said a little hesitantly. "What's going on?"

"Doyle found some sort of spell. Look, you just need to talk to him. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

"Listen, you know how much I hate to be the voice of wisdom here, but seeing as I'm obviously the oldest and the wisest in this room, how the hell are we going to find him?! If Yoda doesn't want to be found, we won't find him. We don't even know that he came here."

Willow stood up, looking over at Oz for support. "Spike, I know okay? You don't have to tell me how difficult this is going to be. Can you find it? And can you find Angel too?"

"It'll take me some time. You're not talking about something I can just run down to the local boogedy-boogedy store and get! I've got to search through bloody crypts for this damn amulet, and you still have to find the original curse and see how different it is from the one you performed."

"Oz and I can do that really easily. Once we use the piece of the amulet we need, and perform the curse again. Oh, I need another Orb, okay. We'll need Giles' help. Look, I know how much the two of you pretend to hate each other, but we all know how much you actually care."

Spike scoffed at the redhead, growling deep in his throat. Oz stood up, putting a hand on his girlfriend's shoulder. "Look man, we all care about Buffy," he began. "I know lately she's been seeing that Riley guy, but we know she's not happy. You can deny t all you like, but you've got a soft spot for her. If you didn't you wouldn't be helping her. And if she didn't have a soft spot for you, you wouldn't be living here."

"That's the most I've heard you talk since we met," Spike quipped.

"And as much as we'd all love to be chatterboxes right now," Willow said as she picked up a spell book. "We've got work to do. We can't tell Buffy what we're doing. It'll be hard, keeping it from her. So don't tell Xander either, we all know his stand on the subject of Angel and Buffy together."

"I say I eat the both of them. Xander and this Fish boy."

Willow and Spike both burst out laughing, and Oz grinned as Buffy walked in the front door. They tried to compose themselves when Buffy questioned them with a look. Willow looked at Spike, who made a fish face at her, which sent them into more gales of laughter.

Spike looked down at Angel, his body lying in a heap on the ground. He groaned under the weight of his grandsire, as he lifted him and carried him to Giles' apartment.

Giles looked up from his book at the loud banging on the door. He opened it, Spike with an unconscious Angel standing across from him.

"What happened?" the Watcher stammered.

"He wouldn't listen to reason."

"So you?"

"So I made him listen to my fists." The blonde vampire looked around the room at the Watcher, the witch, and her boyfriend. "What? Look, it took me long enough to find that bloody amulet. We've solved the part with taking out that bloody happiness clause thing. It's been a bleedin' month, and I'd just like to get this over with."

"Right, let's just see if we can wake him up first."

"Why? He wouldn't listen anyways!"

"Not to you," Willow said, as she walked to Angel's inert form. "Angel?"

Angel shook his head as he slowly woke up. He looked around, taking in his surroundings. Giles, Willow, Oz, and Spike all stood around him. "What's going on?"

"I'm afraid Spike didn't follow directions," Willow supplied.

"I told you, he wasn't listening."

"Angel. Willow and Doyle have discovered a spell," Giles began, deciding the best course of action was to be direct and to the point. "They found a way for the happiness part of your curse to be removed."

"That's not everything," Angel whispered.

"No, we know that. Spike, also was able to come by an amulet, that Willow will be able to charm. You will still be a vampire, but you can be with Buffy in every sense of the word. You can take her out into the sunlight."

"She's found someone new. She's moved on, like I told her to."

"What, you mean Fish Boy?!" Spike exclaimed. "She's tried the moving on thing, yes. The only thing she's thinking about is you, do you understand? She's not happy, she hasn't been since you left. I for one, am bloody sick and tired of seeing her moping about. If you're not going to accept all our hard work then somebody better give me a stake right now so I can put you out of your misery!"

"You don't even know that Buffy will take me back, after everything I've put her through."

"No, and it's not like you deserve it either," Spike mocked. "I am tired of hearing her cry for you at night, of trying to tell her it'll be okay." Spike was the only one brave enough to voice what everyone was thinking. "She's not okay, and we all know it. Even she knows it. You nearly destroyed her when you left, she was as good as dead. Oh, and let's not forget the real relationship thing right?! Let's see, there was the one who used her for sex, broke her heart, fresh after you did by the way, and shall I go on? But she will take you back. She loves you and you love her. What other reasons do you need?"

Riley walked Buffy up to her front door, rocking back on his heels slightly as she turned to go inside. "Buffy," he whispered, as he moved in closely towards her. He leaned his mouth down towards hers. "I think," he faltered, "I love you."

Buffy's eyes flew open, and she turned her head as Angel's words drifted into her mind. *"I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop."*

"I'm sorry," she whispered, as she fled inside.

The weeks had passed by quickly, and finals were suddenly upon them. The sun was dipping down into the ocean as Buffy sat on the beach and watched. She hadn't seen her friends or Spike very much, it was like they were all busy with other things. She had been seeing Riley, but every time she went near him she felt like she was betraying Angel. Betraying all the memories she had of the two of them together.

She held her poetry journal in her lap, waiting for inspiration to hit. Buffy longed to have him near her again, even if they weren't together as a couple, anything to make the empty feeling inside her go away. She uncapped her pen, letting the ink flow over the pages as her heart poured out its deepest desires. When she was finally done she closed her eyes, remembering the feel of Angel's lips as they pressed against hers, the feel of his hands as they caressed her skin, and the hurt he caused when he left her. Somehow, she could never forget that. But she could also never forget the pain she had inflicted on him. She had sent him to hell, and time and again she had pushed him away. She lay back against the sand, as her dreams overtook her.

*She thought he had read her diary. Buffy stood in her bedroom with Angel, babbling incoherently about the book's contents. He was saying something, about not being able to be around her, and she continued to ramble on, until his words registered.

"All I can think about is how badly I want to kiss you."

"Kiss me?" she echoed, as she gazed up at him.

They had moved closer together, moving towards the inevitable. He cradled her face in his hand, and their lips met for the first time. Buffy's heart sang as his mouth moved over hers, her arms winding about his neck as they became more passionate. Suddenly he was struggling to move away from her, and she saw his face, his true face.

Buffy was hunting him, ready to take him down like the animal she thought he was. They were in the Bronze, the fight had begun. He stood over her in his game face, she looked at him with determination, her finger on the crossbow's trigger. His face changed, back to the one she knew so well.

"Come on, don't go soft on me now."

"I invited you into my home. And then you attacked my family," her voice was laced with anger, and hatred.

"Why not?" His tone was almost mocking, but there was something deeper than that. There was sorrow, and regret. "I killed mine." He crossed the room, moving towards her. "I killed their friends, and their friends' children. For a hundred years I offered an ugly death to everyone I met. And I did it with a song in my heart."

"What changed?"

"Gypsies. The elders conjured the perfect punishment for me, they restored my soul. You have no idea what it's like to have done the things I've done, and to care." He killed his sire that night, the one who made him. Angel had killed Darla, to save Buffy. She watched him in almost disbelief, as he turned away from her.

She was doing her usual patrol through the graveyard when she had found the bracelet. Angel had appeared. The conversation had started out lightly, then turned more serious.

"I knew this would happen," his voice was almost exasperated.

"What? What do you think is happening?"

"You're sixteen years old. I'm two hundred and forty-one."

"I've done the math." It had gotten worse from there. This had been the first time he had decided he knew what was best for them.

"This isn't some fairy tale," he said harshly. "When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after."

"No," she answered, as he held her closely. The feel of his arms around her was all she knew of the world. "When you kiss me, I want to die."

They were in the ice-skating rink, Angel had just saved her life again. She stood before him, concerned for a small cut over his eye. He tried to turn away from her, "You shouldn't have to touch me when I'm like this."

"Oh, I didn't even notice," she told him, as she caressed his vampiric features and slowly drew him towards her. She kissed him tenderly, accepting him in a way no one else ever had.

The rain had drenched them to the skin as they hurried inside. If it hadn't been for Angel's quick thinking she would be dead now. They sat on his bed, she was crying because they had almost lost each other that night. He was holding her, and suddenly he could no longer keep his emotions from bursting forth, "I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop."

The words she had so longed to hear from him, "Me, me too, I can't either."

She kissed him gently, their passion for each other growing more each moment. He pulled away from her slightly. "Buffy, maybe we shouldn't."

"Don't," she said as she held his face. "Just kiss me."

Their lips met again, and again as Angel pulled her down into his bed. They melted into each other as they found heaven together.

He was alive! He was all right. She had been so worried when she woke up alone in his bed. He stood before her, mocking the gift she had given him. "It's what? Bells ringing? Fireworks? A dulcet choir of pretty little birdies? Come on Buffy, it's not like I've never been there before."

Buffy stood in the hallway of the school. She couldn't believe the scene before her. Angel was holding Willow by the throat, almost squeezing the life out of her best friend. Her heart screamed out to him, begging him to stop. "Angel, there must be some part of you inside that still remembers who you are."

"Dream on, schoolgirl," he sneered at her. "Your boyfriend is dead."

After Angel's attack and departure, Buffy sat in the library with Giles and the Scooby Gang. She couldn't concentrate on what was being said around her. All she did was gaze at the claddagh ring he had given her the night before.

"If only we knew how it happened," Giles commented.

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked him, coming out of her reverie.

"Well something set it off," he answered her. "Some event, must have triggered his transformation. If anyone would know, Buffy it should be you."

Realization set in at his words. It was her, she had done it. "I don't," she said as the tears began again.

"Well did anything happen last night that...."

"Giles, please," she cried, as she stood up. "I can't," she wept, as she fled the room.

They were facing off for the first time. Buffy, and the demon that now inhabited the body of the man she loved. "You know what the worst part was?" he shouted, glaring down at her through the pouring water. "Pretending that I loved you. If I had known how easily you'd give it up, I wouldn't have even bothered."

Buffy got to her feet. "That doesn't work anymore," she said coldly. "You're not Angel."

"You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? Doesn't matter." He grinned at her then, relishing in her pain. "The important thing is, you made me the man I am today!"

Sunlight streamed through the window, as Buffy slowly awakened. An envelope lay on the pillow by her head. She reached for it, and withdrew a charcoal sketch. Of her. Asleep. He had been here.

"I haven't been able to sleep since the night we made love," Angelus gloried in telling the Slayer's mother.

"Just leave us alone," Joyce said as she managed to push the front door open.

He decided to go in for the kill now, but an invisible barrier blocked his entrance. Buffy and Willow walked down the steps, the redhead reciting in Latin. "Sorry Angel," she said, a look of pure hatred on her face. "Changed the locks." With that, Buffy slammed the door in his face.

The Slayer and the Watcher stood over the grave of the woman Giles had loved. Buffy looked up at him, aware that she was the cause of the heartbreak he was now experiencing. If only she had listened to Angel that night. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't kill him for you...for her...when I had the chance. I wasn't ready, but I think I finally am. I can't hold onto the past anymore. Angel is gone, nothing's ever going to bring him back."

He had gone into the school that night intent on killing her. What happened that night was beyond both their control. She had turned to face him, telling him how much she loved him. But it wasn't her, it was the voice of a boy long dead telling the spirit of his lover how much he loved her. Her spirit was residing inside him, speaking the words that had been true not only for these two souls, but for himself and Buffy as well. "I just want you to be able to have some kind of normal life. We can never have that, don't you see?"

"I don't give a damn about a normal life!" She felt so guilty about what had happened. She had done it, she had turned him into the monster that he was. And she couldn't forgive herself for destroying him, just like the tortured spirit who had possessed her couldn't forgive himself for destroying the woman he loved. Buffy raised the sword in her hands, ready to swing it down towards him. Suddenly he inhaled air he didn't need as his eyes glowed, and something went through him. "Buffy? What's going on? Where are we? I don't remember."

"Angel?" she asked in disbelief. It was him, he was back, her Angel. Willow's spell had succeeded.

"You're hurt!" He pulled her into his arms, and she closed her eyes as she was once again with the man she loved. As she slowly opened her eyes, she looked on in horror as the vortex to hell opened behind them. He couldn't remember what was happening, what had happened.

"I love you," she told him, accepting the fact of what she must do.

"I love you," he told her. She knew he meant it.

"Close your eyes." She kissed him softly, tears seeping down her cheeks. She stepped back slightly, before shoving the steel point of the sword through his chest. Sending the man she loved into hell, saving the world, and breaking her heart.

She had run away from the life she had known. Run away, thinking if she could put distance between herself and Sunnydale that it wouldn't have happened. She knew she was dreaming, as he came into the sunlight and put his arms around her. "How did you find me here?"

"If I was blind, I would see you."

"Stay with me?"

"Forever, that's the whole point. I'll never leave. Not even if you kill me."

Angel had come back to her. Back from the Hell she had sent him to. And he still loved her, even after what she'd done. They had tried to pretend that there was no longer anything between them, but Spike had seen right through them both. "We're not friends, we never were. What I want from you I can never have. You don't need me to take care of you anymore, so I'm gonna go."

"I don't accept that," he had told her.

"You have to."

"Look, there's gotta be some way we can still see each other."

"There is. Tell me that you don't love me." He stared at her in silence. There was no way he would ever tell her that.

He was being haunted by evil. An evil so powerful that even she couldn't fight it. An evil that wanted him to kill her. He could never hurt her, so instead he chose to kill himself. But she wouldn't let him. "You were in the dream, you know! It told me to lose my soul in you and become a monster again."

"I know what it told you. What does it matter?"

"Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly. I want to take comfort in you and I know it'll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn't care. It's not the demon in me that needs killing Buffy, it's the man." Something had saved him. The powers that be, God, who knew. The sun hadn't come out that day. He was able to go on beside her.

Who knew it would be her own mother that would help him come to the decision to leave. Her mother and the madman they were fighting. She was talking about the prom, something girls her age were greatly absorbed with, something she should be absorbed with. "You deserve more. You deserve something outside of demons and darkness. You should be with someone who can take you into the light. Someone who can make love to you."

"I don't care about that."

"You will."

"I'll never have a normal life."

"Right. You'll always be the Slayer. But that's all the more reason why you should have a real relationship instead of this-this freak show."

"I want my life to be with you."

"I don't." Those words hurt her more than anything that had happened between them in the past. She loved him completely, even though she knew what he was. They were supposed to be mortal enemies. She died a little inside that night.

He was dying, a great feat for somebody that was already dead. Faith had poisoned him, to keep Buffy out of her boss's way. She had tried to bring him the cure, but she had failed. Now there was only one option left, only she could save him. "Angel listen to me, sit up. You're going to live. You have to live."

"What do I-?"

"Drink." She slowly removed her jacket, keeping her gaze on him. "Drink me."

He looked up at her, his eyes widening. No, he couldn't do it. He couldn't hurt her just to save himself. "You can't ask me to do this." Drinking her blood would cure him, but it would kill her.

"I won't let you die. I can't." The blood of the Slayer was the only cure, and right now she was the only one available. She wouldn't let him die, she loved him too much. He tried to get away from her, but he was too weak. She knew the demon inside him would not be able to resist, so she brought it forth.

She had saved his life, and he was still leaving her. "When we get through this, I'm just gonna go. You understand?" She stopped him from saying anymore, it hurt too much. Neither of them said a word as they looked at each other through the smoke surrounding them. Her heart cried out to his to stay, but he turned and walked away.*

"Angel!" Buffy bolted up, she was still on the beach. Darkness had fallen, and the stars were twinkling slightly overhead. She looked around groggily, trying to forget the images from her dream. She didn't want to be living those moments over and over again. Even the happier ones they had shared were too painful, it reminded her of what she'd lost. She put her hands to her face, covering her eyes, willing the memories to disappear. She ran a hand through her hair as she sighed deeply.

"Who's Angel?"

Buffy turned around. Riley was standing there, watching her.

"Riley. What're you doing here?"

"I came to see if you wanted to maybe grab a bite to eat, or if you could help me with my Mythology homework. Your friends were really worried. They're looking for you. I went back up to the house and let them know I found you. What're you doing out here alone?"

"How long have you been there?"

"Not long. You fell asleep, you looked like you were dreaming."

"Yeah, I guess." She stood up slowly, picking up her notebook as she did. As she stood, her Slayer sense kicked in. There was a vampire nearby. Somehow she had managed to actually keep her secret identity a secret from Riley. She couldn't kill her opponent here, not in front of him. She stopped reaching for the stake in her pocket when she realized it was no ordinary vampire. Something deep inside told her, as a familiar sensation overtook her entire body.

"So....who's Angel?"

"He's," she cast her gaze down trying to still the beating of her heart, then looked back up towards the sky as she drew a shaky breath.

"He's the man, who loves her," came a quiet answer.

Buffy's gaze immediately searched for the voice she knew so well. "Angel?" The mere thought of his presence made chills run up and down her spine. She longed to hold him in her arms again, and to have him hold her close. He was here, was he really here?

Angel stepped out of the shadows, moving closer to the woman he loved. He had been watching her as she slept on the beach, dreaming about the two of them. He had planned on going, and being there next to her when she woke up. The boy named Riley had come looking for her, and had stayed and watched, and listened. She had been whispering slightly, words that were etched forever in his memory, things she had said to him. Shared words of love, of anger, of pain, he remembered them all. She had woken up, and called out for him. Called out for a man that had abandoned her to face the rest of her life alone. There was a look of disbelief on her face. He saw all the emotions play across her features. Love, hope, heartbreak, longing, joy and pain.. Her eyes were brimming with tears that were threatening to spill over.

Buffy saw the tortured look on his face that she had come to know so well. She couldn't believe he was standing there, across from her. "It's not really you. I'm dreaming again."

He hesitated for a moment, remembering his own dream. "No you're not. I'm here." He continued to move towards her, bridging the gap between them. There were only a few inches of space between their two bodies as he gazed down at her. He wanted to hold her again, to kiss her, to feel her mouth responding to his. He raised his hand to her cheek, his eyes never leaving hers. "Buffy," he whispered. She brought her hand up, holding onto the fingers that were lightly caressing her face. The sensations running through her body were leaving her breathless.

"Angel," she breathed as the tears finally ran down her cheeks. He pulled her into his arms, crushing her body against his. She buried her face against his chest, breathing in his familiar scent. When she finally looked back up into his face, she saw there were tears in his eyes as well. Life seemed to run in slow motion as he leaned down, and claimed her lips with his own. She responded to him immediately, her mouth opening under his as his arms tried to pull her closer.

"Buffy, what's going on?" Riley asked her, as he looked at them in disbelief.

Buffy looked from Riley to Angel. She slowly backed away from the both of them, then turned and ran back to the house. Angel looked down at the book that had fallen from her hands. He picked it up, slowly turning the pages as he read. Her heart was on these pages, written in ink. He could see beyond it, to the blame she placed on herself. She felt she should be suffering, just as he had. How could she think he would be happy without her? She was his entire reason for existing. The last year, being away from her, had been torture for him.

The words he had uttered to Willow that night had been so true. He needed her, loved her. He could no longer go on without her. He looked over at the human boy who was still standing there staring at him. He turned to the last page in her notebook, to read the words she had written just before the dreams of their time together. Tears slid down his cheeks as he saw the words she had brought forth. No matter how much she felt she had to suffer, to go on without him, she still longed to have him near. How could he have thought she ever wanted anything but what the two of them had together?

Set It Free
They say that life is only worth living once you've found something worth dying for.
That reality is merely an illusion.
And that if you truly love something, you should set it free.
If it returns, it's yours forever.
If it doesn't, it wasn't yours to begin with.
You will return, my Angel.
Love is Forever.

Spike looked up as the Slayer flew through the door and up the stairs to her bedroom. Willow stood up from her perch on the couch where she and Oz were watching TV. The three of them looked at each other, all of them worried. A knock sounded on the door, and Oz went to answer it.

"Oh," was the only sound Willow and Spike heard.

They both ran to the hallway, Angel and Riley were both standing at the front door. "Oh," they both said at the same time.

Riley walked inside, looking at the group of people. "Angel," Willow began, understanding why the vampire was still outside. "Come in." He walked over the threshold, looking around for Buffy.

"Oh, bleedin' christ!" Spike exclaimed, as he quickly ran up the stairs to Buffy's room. She was lying curled in a ball on her bed, crying her heart out. He went and sat down on the bed next to her, taking her hand in his. "Are you all right?"

"No," came the shaky reply.

He stroked her hair with his free hand as she cried into her pillow. He looked up, as Angel came up the stairs and stood in the doorway. He shook his head slightly, turning his attention back to the Slayer.

"Spike?"

"I'm here, pet."

"I..." her voice trailed off.

"What is it, luv? Talk to me. Buffy you don't always have to be so strong, not all the time. That's what I'm here for, what we're here for. Me, Willow and Oz, and even the annoying one."

"Yes, I do," she sobbed quietly.

"But why? I know you and I have had our rough spots, trying to figure out this friends thing and whether or not we can trust each other. I think we've both proven that to each other by now."

"I feel like I'm dying inside. You have no idea what it's like to love someone so much and have them suddenly decide to leave you so you can have the fairy tale life that you know is impossible. It's my destiny to spend nights sitting around in graveyards, protecting a world that doesn't appreciate me. I have to be strong, otherwise I won't be able to survive. I can't go through this again, the first time I lost him, I. And then..." she continued to cry brokenly, and all Spike and Angel could do was wonder why neither one of them knew she felt this way.

"He's here now," Spike said as he stroked her hair. "Remember what I told you, you can't dwell on the past and live in the present. You have another chance, don't let it slip through your fingers."

Angel saw how tender Spike was with Buffy, and again the thought that perhaps they were closer than they let on crossed his mind. Spike continued to try and soothe the Slayer, then slowly stood up as Angel entered the room and took his place by her side.

She knew he was there, her body instinctively moved closer to his. He gathered her up in his arms, holding her close. Buffy's arms wrapped around Angel's neck, her fingers entwining in his hair as his mouth sought hers. The kiss was tender at first, slowly becoming more passionate and fierce.

"Hold me?" she whispered, before she fell asleep in his arms. He held onto her tightly, never wanting to let her go again. He lay down beside her on the bed with his arms wrapped around her, both of them sleeping comfortably, knowing that the other was near.

Spike was grinning as he walked down the stairs. Willow, Oz, and Riley all stood up when they saw him walk into the room. The vampire turned to the two people he considered friends, "Can I eat him now?"

Willow's face contorted in a mixture of shock and mirth. She frowned at Spike and shook her head no. Oz smiled slightly, wanting to shake his head yes. "How is she?" he asked instead.

"She's," he started, but was interrupted by the front door opening.

Xander came walking down the hallway, dropping his bags by the stairs before proceeding to the living room where he was sure everyone was gathered. "Hey, I'm home!" he called out in greeting.

"Oh come on, please?!" the blonde vampire begged the witch.

"No!" she said emphatically.

"But both my meals!"

"Hey, Dead Boy," Xander addressed Spike. "And this is?" he asked as he noticed Riley.

"Annoying one, meet Fish boy," Spike drawled.

"Xander," Willow interrupted. "This is Riley. He and Buffy, well I don't know anymore."

"Buffy and I are seeing each other," Riley supplied.

Spike and Oz both scoffed at that, receiving looks from the other people in the room. "What, you don't really think you're still in the picture after Yoda's back?"

"What?!" Xander and Riley both exclaimed.

"Look," Oz spoke up. "Buffy's been through a lot in the last couple years. Xander right now she doesn't need your judgment, she just needs you to be her friend."

"Riley," Spike said as he put his arm about the boy's shoulders. "My pet is going to be extremely happy now with her great pouf back. I'm sure she'll want to talk to you later, but let me see you to the door."

Willow, Oz, and Xander heard the front door slam as Spike sauntered back into the living room. He looked quite pleased with himself, happier than any of them had ever seen him. "I'll be in my room," he said before he headed down the stairs. "I might go out later," he said as he looked towards the door, "you know for a bite to eat."

Buffy woke up slowly to moonlight filtering into her room, hoping that what she thought had been a dream was a reality. She opened her eyes and found herself in Angel's arms. He was watching her. She reached out her hand, touching his face, making sure he was there. Her breathing quickened as he turned his head, kissing her palm. She pulled his mouth down to hers, kissing him fiercely as her hands roamed over his body. She welcomed the weight of his body as he rolled slightly so that he was on top of her. His tongue invaded her mouth, and she moaned as he trailed his lips down to her neck.

His hands were everywhere, sending shivers of delight all over her. She pulled his mouth back up to hers as she felt his desire for her pressing into her leg. He heard her moan his name as his hand caressed her breast.

*"The curse. If Angel experienced true happiness, even just a moment of, he would lose his soul."*

"Angel, we can't." Her fingers were entwined in his hair, her body raging with desire for him as his mouth never left her skin. She heard herself telling him no, but her body and her actions were begging him not to stop. "Angel," she said again, this time with a little more conviction. She moved out from underneath him, sitting up on the edge of the bed. She could hear him panting heavily behind her, drawing air into his lungs that he didn't need.

He sat up, pulling her towards him. She felt his body pressed so close to her own, she hadn't wanted to stop. But she couldn't forget what had happened before, what she herself had caused. His hands were gripping her shoulders, not letting her move away from him. "We can," he whispered.

"No," she answered, as a small sob escaped her throat. "Your soul. I made it happen the last time. I can't," she finished brokenly.

He turned her so she was facing him, raising her face to look into her eyes. "Listen to me. Willow did a spell. I wouldn't let her at first, but she did it anyway. My soul is not going anywhere. I wanted to tell you before, but that guy. I couldn't stay away tonight, I had to see you. I didn't know if I would get the chance to make love to you again, but Buffy I want you so badly. I love you so much. If you tell me to go away now, I will. I'll leave, and this time I won't come back."

She lowered her head as the tears ran down her face, and her shoulders shook with the sobs that went through her body. He waited anxiously for her to respond, he couldn't stand to see her crying. "I'll die if you leave me again."

That was all the answer Angel needed to hear. He pulled her into his arms, his mouth crushing hers in a violent kiss. His lips trailed to her ear, down her neck, to her shoulders. She felt his hands slip the straps of her tank top down, her breasts exposed to his gaze. She was breathing heavily, her eyes closed, her mouth slightly open as she let her body go to the sensations Angel's mouth was making her experience.

"Buffy," Angel spoke quietly. She let her eyes drift open, saw his eyes darkened by his desire for her. "If you don't," he trailed off.

"Don't," she said as she put her finger to his lips. "Just kiss me."

Angel stared at her for a moment then lowered his head and kissed her. It awakened something in Buffy only he could bring forth. He plunged his tongue inside the wet, warm confines of her inviting mouth and explored roughly. Occasionally nipping at her bottom lip. He ran his tongue over her tongue, over her lips, getting deeper and rougher, making Buffy want him more and more.

They were in a frenzy, neither of them wanting to waste a moment that they could taste the other's skin. Angel's hands managed to rid her of her sweats, her socks, and her panties all in one fluid motion. Soon, he was nude on the bed beside her. His mouth was everywhere, trailing kisses over her entire body as Buffy moaned his name. He looked up at her for a moment, her beautiful body arching towards his, her hands clutching at the sheets as he continued his exquisite torment.

Angel moved back up her body massaging, caressing, kissing, until he reached her mouth. He kissed her as their lower bodies joined together and they both cried out in pleasure. Their bodies moved together, striving to become one. "I love you," Angel cried out as he felt his body release his seed deep within her. Those three words, emitted from his lips were enough to bring Buffy to orgasm as well. Their lips met again as they both breathed heavily, coming back to earth.

Angel rolled so that his weight was no longer pressing on her small frame. He pulled her against him as he lay back with her against the pillows. Buffy rested her head on his chest, their sweaty bodies sticking together. He held onto her tightly as sleep overtook them both.

Spike sat out on the beach. He had heard their moans of pleasure even down in his room and decided he couldn't take it anymore. He felt good inside that Angel and Buffy were together again. The Slayer had to face too much alone, and even though they were friends he knew how much she needed Angel. He sighed as he got up, hoping that maybe now he'd be able to get some peace. As he trudged through the sand he noticed a figure standing by the house, below Buffy's balcony.

Riley stood staring up at her window. She had never looked at him the way she had the vampire Angel. He had promised the vampire he was indebted to that he would be able to get rid of the Slayer. He had thought the task would be easier now that she was alone, but Spike was always there, now Angel had reappeared.

"Damnit! I'll catch her tomorrow on campus. I'll have her meet me, she'll never suspect." He walked away into the darkness, not noticing the blonde vampire a few feet away with narrowed eyes.

Spike trailed Riley back to his dorm room, sticking to the shadows. He wanted to find out what the little rat was up to, before he took the great pleasure of breaking his neck. He turned away from the college, making sure to take note what room Riley was in, then headed back to the beach house.

Angel felt her absence before he opened his eyes, his hand reached out into the air beside him. He sat up in her bed, alone. It made him think about a time she awoke alone after a night of passion with him, the memories resurfacing from the dark corners of his mind. His panic was short lived, as he spotted Buffy bathed in moonlight, standing in front of the window with a blanket wrapped around her body. She stood staring out at the night sky, and he almost thought he saw tears in her eyes. Her body radiated strength and power, even though she looked almost lost and alone. Something was troubling her, he didn't know what. He saw her hand move up, wiping away a tear that ran down her cheek.

"Buffy?"

She turned to look at him, sniffing slightly. "Hey," she said as she walked over and sat by him on the bed.

"What's wrong?" he put a hand to her cheek, his skin cool against her own.

"It's just, last time." She lowered her head, clearing her throat as more tears ran down her cheeks. She looked down at the sheets as she spoke, her gaze unable to meet his. "I woke up alone in your bed, and then when I saw you again. The things you said."

"It wasn't me," Angel said as he gripped her shoulders. She looked up at him, her eyes filled with tears. "I would never hurt you."

"I know," she answered as he pulled her into his arms. She leaned her head against his chest, her tears falling on his skin. "I know it wasn't you, but it hurt so much. I love you so much, and I turn..."

"Shh," he silenced her with a kiss. "You were perfect, you were everything I ever dreamed about."

"I love you," she whispered, her forehead pressed against his. Her hand wandered up to caress his cheek. His lips met her flesh, and a small moan escaped her lips.

They both opened their eyes to gaze at each other, as Angel's hands slid the blanket off Buffy's shoulders. She was holding her breath, afraid she would disappoint him. One hand went to the nape of her neck, pulling her close to him. The other hand encircled her waist, pressing their bodies together. Buffy gasped as her breasts pressed against his chest, his skin as cold as hers was warm. His lips met hers again, as he pulled her down into the bed.

Spike looked up at the Slayer as she sat down across from him at the table. He raised his mug of coffee, looking at her over the rim. "Are we happy then?" She was positively glowing from her night of passion with Angel. She was happier than Spike had seen her in a long time. He put his mug down on the table and stood up, coming around behind her chair. She turned slightly, to look up at him. He leaned down, planting a small kiss on the top of her head. "I like you better this way," he whispered against her hair.

Buffy tilted her head back, her gaze meeting his. She smiled at him, the first genuine smile he'd seen in a while. "I have to go to class, have to turn in my final. You should get some sleep."

"Still going to mother me?"

"Still going to baby me?"

"Listen, pet, seriously now. I saw something last night, that's bothering me. That boy the fish one, Riley. I don't trust him. Don't ask me how I know, but he's going to try to get you alone. Don't meet him til after sunset, until Angel or I can be there. Promise?"

"Why?"

"I heard something is all. Promise me that right after you turn this in, you'll be where there are a lot of people. Go see Giles, even have him walk you to your car."

"You don't think I can take on Riley?"

"I don't know exactly what he wants from you, or expects to get by doing anything to you. I don't know who he's working for. I know that you could easily take him, but I don't know if he'll be alone. So I'm going to make sure you're not."

"This coming from the guy who tried to kill me. Who sent assassins after me, and also was beaten up by my mother."

"We weren't friends then. But hey, I'm serious now. If he wants to get together with you, tell him you have to meet your mum or something who by the way happens to like me. Tell him to meet you, somewhere else after sunset. He won't want to meet here, because he knows Yoda and I are here. He'll tell you where, and when he does, we'll be ready then."

"Okay," she said as she nodded. "I don't think I've ever seen you like this."

"What can I say, you're like an annoying little sister."

Buffy giggled, then gave Spike a quick hug before heading upstairs to change. She closed her bedroom door behind her, her eyes falling on Angel's sleeping form. She smiled as she walked over to her dresser and pulled out a T-shirt and jeans. She quickly changed her clothes, then stood in front of the mirror, brushing her hair. As she reached behind her to braid the long blonde mass she felt Angel's hands on her shoulders, his lips on her neck. Her hand flew up to hold his head against her neck, as he kissed her. She leaned her body against his, as she turned her head to kiss him back.

"Where you going?" he whispered against her lips.

Buffy kissed him back, then opened her eyes to look at him. "I have to turn in my poetry final. But I'll be back soon, I promise."

"Okay," he said, as he kissed her once more. He watched her as she sat down and began putting her sandals on.

"Could you get me my earrings, they're in my jewellery box."

He stood up and opened the small box on her dresser. "Which ones?"

"Doesn't matter."

Angel looked down into the box, his eyes fell on the claddagh ring. She still had it. He remembered the night he first gave it to her, her birthday. *"My people, before I was changed, exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It's a claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty. And the heart, well, you know... Wear it with the heart pointing toward you. It means you belong to someone. Like this."*

He looked down at his own hand, he still wore his ring, he still belonged to her. The last time he had seen hers was on the floor of the mansion after he'd returned from hell. She had told him how she had gone into the mansion, left the ring on the floor, and uttered the simple word goodbye. He had returned that night. Even through the pain, and the animal nature within him he had still recognized the small piece of silver. He thought he had taken it to Los Angeles with him, but obviously he had left it behind. Buffy must've found it in the mansion after he left, and kept it.

Angel closed his fingers over the ring, then walked across the room to where Buffy was waiting for him. She looked up at him expectantly, her brow furrowing slightly as he knelt in front of her. "Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing that can't be fixed," he answered simply. He picked up her left hand, where it rested on her knee and kissed the palm. "Close your eyes." She looked at him for a moment, then did as he asked. She felt him slip something onto her finger, then kiss her hand again.

Buffy knew before she opened her eyes what she would see when she did. Instead of looking down at her hand, she raised her gaze to meet Angel's. She pressed her forehead against his, not knowing what to say. "I......"

"Shhhhhh," he began. "Don't ever take it off again. You and I will always belong to each other, remember that." She nodded her head, and then kissed him longingly. "You have to go to school."

"I really do."

Buffy sat at her desk, day dreaming about Angel. She had almost been late as their goodbye kiss had started to turn into something more. Spike's voice had called out to her as she had started to unbutton Angel's jeans. They had regretfully parted and she had driven off to school. Now as she sat with her eyes closed, remembering the way he had whimpered when she left, her last thought was of Riley.

The teacher finally showed up, and the students filed forward, handing in their assignments. Buffy dropped her notebook in the box, then made her way out the door and to the library. Angel had told her Giles part in everything, and she was anxious to thank him.

"Buffy?"

She spun around quickly when she heard his voice. Her talk with Spike this morning hadn't made her think about Riley, but it had put her on her guard. "Hey."

"About last night."

"I'm sorry about that. I wish I had known what my friends were up to, it would've made things easier. This isn't going to be easy to say, but Angel's back in my life. I should never have accepted your invitation to dinner. I never set out to hurt you."

"Could we at least talk about this?"

"We're talking now."

"Alone?"

Alarm bells went off in Buffy's head, Spike was right. "I can't right now, I have to meet Giles, and then I've got to meet my mom. If you really want to talk, my place at seven."

"No, not your place. All your friends are there, and I got the impression they didn't really like me anyway."

"Well, we don't have to talk inside. I'll meet you out on the beach."

Buffy watched as his resolve faltered, and then he gave in. She was about to turn and walk away when she heard Giles' familiar voice. She saw her former Watcher approach her cautiously. He saw the huge grin on her face, and knew that she and Angel were together again. He wasn't prepared for the small body that launched itself at him. He paused for a moment, and returned her hug.

She wasn't just his Slayer, she was like his daughter. Quentin Travers had been right, he did have a father's love for her. He was glad he had been able to help put back the light that was shining in her eyes again. They held onto each other for what seemed like forever, when he finally let her go. "I see that everything is, as it should be."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Giles looked up at the boy, Riley, before answering. "Well uh, yes let's go to my office and continue our chat, shall we?"

Buffy looked over at Riley, and nodded her head. She still had to tell Giles what Spike had told her. "I'll see you later," she called to him as she followed Giles to the library.

Giles looked up at Buffy as he cleaned his glasses. "He has been reading a lot lately on vampire mythology. Even to the point of asking me if I believed if any of it were true. In this instance Spike is right, you can't trust him. I don't want you meeting him alone. I want Spike or Angel with you, at all times until we can figure out what he's up to."

"Yes Dad," she mocked him. "I know. I am taking this seriously, it's just that I would've thought if he were up to anything he would've made his move by now."

"Maybe he thought he would get closer to you than he already is. I don't know. Please, be careful."

"I will," she said as she gave him a brief hug before heading home, to Angel.

Angel looked across the table at Spike, believing him yet not wanting to.

His eyes grew darker with anger as the two of them stared at each other. He glanced over at Willow, Xander, and Oz who like him were in shock.

"What's he getting out of it though?" Willow asked, breaking the silence.

"From what I've been able to find out, it's his life for Buffy's," Spike answered.

"Do you know who?" Angel asked.

Spike lowered his gaze and shook his head yes. He knew who wanted Buffy dead.

"Well?" Xander pressed.

"Xander," Oz said, stopping him. He shook his head, telling him not to start.

Willow, Oz, Angel, and Spike all looked at each other. They knew. "She's not gonna stop," Angel said, looking at Spike. "You know that."

"I'll take care of it," Spike answered.

"Are you sure?" Willow asked.

He stood up, putting his duster on as he walked to the door. "I'll see you all later," he called.

"She'll be on the beach, at seven," Riley said, looking up at the vampire.

"So will we," she answered.

"There's...I need something from my dorm room."

She raised an eyebrow at him, then slowly turned her back. "Always remember I know where to find you."

Riley quickly backed away from her, heading to the dorms. He thought as long as he got inside, he would be safe. He threw his door open, reaching for the light switch.

"I want to know how the two of you met," a familiar voice called out of the darkness.

"How did you get in here?"

Spike rose from his perch at Riley's desk, walking about the room. "Dorm rooms, not quite the same as home. See getting in the building wasn't tough, a smile, the accent, girls love it."

"What do you want?"

"I already told you. I want to know how you met my Dru."

"You know her?"

"She made me, not that you needed to know that," Spike answered, as he morphed into his game face. "I'm waiting."

"I, well, she... She was gonna kill me. I started talking about a girl I had met, and when I said her name she went into a rage. She told me she would spare my life, and all I had to do was kill Buffy."

"You do know she was lying, don't you?"

"What?!"

"Vampires aren't notorious for keeping their word, especially if they're as insane as Drusilla."

"You mean she's gonna kill me?"

"No, I'm going to kill you," he said as he advanced on him, grabbing him by the throat. "You see if there's something I hate more than Dru cheating on me, or somebody trying to kill me, it's someone other than me trying to kill Buffy. Nite nite." With that Spike sank his fangs into the boys neck, growling as the blood poured into his mouth, and laughing as Riley tried to struggle against him.

Buffy stood out on the sand, the handle of the stake meeting her palm as she fidgeted nervously. After seven, and still no sign of Riley. Her entire body came alive, and she slipped Mr. Pointy into her sleeve as she turned around. "I should've known," she said, as the vampire walked towards her.

"Hello, Buffy," Drusilla smiled, that cold hateful smile. "Surprised to see me?"

"Not really. But you know, the death threats. They're just not getting scarier every time I hear them."

She laughed cruelly, running her tongue across her fangs as she morphed into her game face. "I'm going to really enjoy this."

Spike burst through the front door of the house, he had to find Buffy. Somehow he knew that she probably hadn't listened. Everything in his body screamed that something he couldn't prevent was about to happen. He found Angel sitting in the living room, reading a book as usual. "Where is she?!"

"She hasn't come home from school yet."

"Damnit! We have to find her, now! Willow, weapons!" Spike called out as he and Angel flew out the door.

Willow, Oz, Xander, Spike, and Angel stood outside on the sand, looking up and down the beach for any trace of Buffy. "Spike," Willow panted, out of breath. "It's not in the drawer."

Spike turned to look at the redhead, his eyes wide. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"What?" Angel asked, "What're you guys talking about?"

"Mr. Pointy?" Oz asked.

Willow nodded her head, as she looked at the familiar faces surrounding her. "Annoying one, you're with me," Spike said, indicating the direction they were going. "You three take the other direction!" Spike and Xander took off running down the beach, searching for Buffy.

Angel and Oz heard the sounds of a battle before the noise reached Willow's ears. They increased their speed, moving closer to the two people they knew they would see. The two figures on the beach moved quickly. Arms and legs flying at each other, each trying to inflict as much pain on the other as they possibly could. One of the figures delivered a blow to the stomach that made the other topple over. The person standing took the advantage, knocking her opponent to the ground. Willow saw before they did, saw the flash of the dagger in the moonlight. She saw the blade as the moon reflected off its surface, right before Drusilla's hand drove it into Buffy's back. "NO!!" Willow screamed, the sound of her voice echoing for miles as she saw her best friend arch against the pain, then collapse onto the sand.

"Buffy!" Angel yelled as he raced forward, gathering the Slayer into his arms.

"My Angel," Drusilla cooed, staring down at her Sire. "Finally, you get to watch the Slayer die."

Angel looked up at her, rage, hatred and anger pouring forth from his body. "Something you weren't counting on, Dru," he growled, as he saw the figure behind her.

"What's that?" she mocked.

"Me," Spike answered as he rose up, and drove Kendra's stake through Drusilla's heart.

Drusilla staggered. The bloody knife in her hand fell to the sand. She turned slowly. "Spike?" she murmured in disbelief. Her hands clutched at him for a brief moment. Spike watched as his Sire, the woman he loved, fell to the ground and exploded. Her ashes mixing with the sand.

Giles picked up the phone, looking up from the book he had been reading. "Hello?" he called into the receiver.

"Giles?!" Cordelia was breathless. "I've been trying to reach Buffy and the others. They're not answering. Doyle had a vision. Buffy."

He hung up the phone, grabbing the bag Willow had left behind as he raced out the door. For once in its existence, his car didn't give him trouble as he started it and sped along the streets to the beach house.

Spike looked from the stunned faces of the people around him, to the girl lying in Angel's arms. He heard her breathing as it became more and more shallow. Angel's hands were covered in her blood, as he tried to put pressure on her wound. He knelt down next to Willow, she was crying as she clutched her best friend's hand.

"Buffy?" he said, trying to make her open her eyes. "Slayer, look at me!"

Her eyes flew open, gazing up at Angel then looking at the people surrounding her. "I'm sorry," she whispered. She shut her eyes, whimpering slightly at the pain that wracked her body. "If I...had listened...this....wouldn't be happening." Spike could tell that every breath she was taking was causing her pain.

"Come on, pet," Spike said gently. "You're going to be okay."

"Who're you trying to convince?" she asked quietly.

"Buffy," Angel kissed her softly. "He's right, we've got to get you to a hospital."

"Guys, you know as well as I do," she broke off, crying out in pain.

Xander looked from Angel to Spike. "Angel, you can't let her die. You have to..."

Angel looked down at his lover, he could feel her slowly slipping away. He couldn't condemn her to the life he lived. But he couldn't lose her either, not when they'd just gotten each other back.

"One of you two better decide, and fast," Oz said. He could hear her heart, it's beat getting slower and slower.

"Buffy?" Spike put his hand to the Slayer's cheek. The cold sensation on her face made her open her eyes. She looked up at her friend, realizing what they were all saying. "I'm not going to let you die." The look on his face was determined, and she knew what was going to happen. Spike looked up at Angel, then picked the dagger up from the sand and cut into his flesh.

Spike's gaze connected with Angel's, the older vampire nodded his head. He brought his wrist to Buffy's mouth, his blood flowing across her lips and down her throat. Her body arched forward suddenly, and then the Slayer died in her Angel's arms.

Giles pulled up to the house, the tires of his car screeching in protest. He threw the door open and raced out to the sand in time to see the group walking back. And then he saw Buffy. Angel was carrying her body, her eyes were closed, one arm hanging lifelessly. "Buffy," he whispered, before running to meet them. "What happened?" he demanded.

"Drusilla," Xander answered.

"We have to get her inside," Angel began. "I don't know what she'll be like when she wakes up."

"What do you mean?" Everybody looked down, unable to meet Giles' gaze. "Angel? Spike? What have you done?"

"We couldn't just let her die," Xander spoke up.

"Oh my God," Giles breathed.

Angel and Spike sat next to each other down in the basement. Giles was pacing in front of Willow, Oz, and Xander. The group waiting to see how long it would take Buffy to rise, and what she would be like when she did.

They had lain her down on a pile of blankets in the cage that Oz used three nights a month. The basement also served as their weapons and training room, and Giles looked like he was about to use one of the stakes on either Angel or Spike.

Angel ran a hand through his hair and sighed. In his lifetime he had never seen a Slayer turned into a vampire before. He had no idea if she would be her, or if she would be how he used to be. Would she still love him? Or would she be angry? He couldn't believe he had allowed Spike to turn her. Instead of that happening, he should've just greeted the sun at her grave.

Willow stood up, wringing her hands. "I had a thought," she broke the tension-filled room's silence. Everyone looked up at her. "What if Buffy, well what if she's? Okay, start over here. Maybe we should set up to do the curse on Buffy if we need to."

"I think she's right," Angel whispered.

"Which one of you?" Giles began.

"Does it matter?" Spike asked as he looked up at Giles. "There was nothing else that we could do."

"Why was there no other thing to do? Why didn't you just get her to the hospital?"

Willow approached the Watcher, putting her hand on his arm. "She wouldn't have made it. Drusilla stabbed her in the back, it was a..... she couldn't have survived it. If they hadn't..."

"I never thought I would outlive her. She's the longest living Slayer there ever was. I don't know what she'll be like when she wakes up. Angel, if you... then maybe she'll be Buffy, because of the spells Willow and I have performed recently."

"I'm her Sire," Spike spoke up.

"Willow, let's get started," Giles said as he went to retrieve her bag from his car.

Willow sat behind the Orb of Thesulah, surrounded by candles and stones. She held the runes in her hand, waiting. Giles picked up a book, turning to find the right page. Oz picked up the sage, waiting to light it. Spike and Xander walked about the room, lighting the candles.

Angel stood with the others, his back to the cage as he helped them set up for the ritual. He raised his head slowly, then turned and walked over to the closed door.

He watched Buffy closely, and then he saw her hand twitch. "Guys."

Everybody walked over to stand by him, watching as Buffy slowly opened her eyes. She remained with her eyes open, just staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity.

"Buffy?" Xander asked.

She rolled onto her side, slowly getting to her feet. Buffy turned away from them as she felt her face change to that of the demon within her. Her entire body was shaking, it hurt so much. She didn't know how she knew, but she knew that the demon was fighting for control of her body. Having been the Slayer, her soul was fighting for control as well. She fell to the ground, hunched over in pain. "Willow," she gasped out. "Do the spell."

The redhead looked around for a moment, then ran back to her perch. She signaled Giles who began to read. *"Quad perditum est, in venietur."*

*"Te implor, Doamnei nu ignora aceasta rugaminte. Nici mort, nici al flinctei. Te invoc, spirit al trecerii. Reda trupului ce separa omul de animal. Lasa orbita sa fie vasul care-i va transporta sufletul la el. Este scris aceasta putere este dreptul poporuil mea de a conduce. Asa sa fie! Asa sa fie! Acum! Acum!"*

Angel watched as Buffy gasped for air suddenly, as her eyes glowed. "Deja vu," he whispered. "Buffy?"

"Angel? Where am I?"

"You're okay. Giles, give me the key." He practically ripped the door open and was kneeling in front of her. "Buffy?"

Her eyes were closed and she was leaning against him for support. A flood of images entered her mind, her fight with Drusilla, lying in Angel's arms, Spike bringing his wrist to her mouth. She turned to look up at the platinum vampire, her Sire. Everyone was looking at her intently, trying to determine what she was going to do. The realization of what had been done to her hit her like a ton of bricks. She looked at the other people in the room, a look of disbelief on her face. "Don't touch me," she whispered as she made her way out of the cage. There was a hunger inside her unlike anything she'd ever known before. She was craving blood, she knew it. From the looks on their faces, Angel and Spike knew it too.

"Buffy," Spike began.

"Leave me alone," she said, as she made her way up the stairs.

The people in the basement looked around at each other in stunned silence. "What's wrong with her?" Xander asked.

"She's hungry," Angel answered.

"I've got it covered," Spike said, as he walked down the hallway to his room.

Buffy stood up in her bedroom, looking through the window at the night. She had become one of the things that she fought so desperately against. She knew Angel was a vampire, it didn't stop her love for him. That fact didn't alter her friendship with Spike either. She didn't know where the anger inside her was coming from. Spike came up behind her, holding a mug out in front of him. "Drink it, you'll feel better."

"I don't want it."

"That's a lie and you know it."

She closed her eyes, the smell of the blood he was offering was almost intoxicating. A tear ran down her cheek as she reached for the cup. She felt her face change, and hungrily drank down the blood. She wiped the tears from her face, as she set the cup down on her nightstand. "Just go away."

"Buffy," Angel began, as he crossed the room and took her in his arms. "There was no other way."

"Why couldn't you just let me die?"

"Because I'm selfish. Because I don't ever want to lose you again. I couldn't let you die, I love you too much."

"Why are you so angry Pet? Because I made you a vampire, or because you were too pigheaded to listen to us in the first place?! You made a bad decision, but look at what's come of it. You and Angel have eternity together."

Buffy looked from Spike to Angel, as she rested her head against his comforting embrace. "How can you love me if I'm like this?"

"I'll always love you," he said, tightening his hold on her body. "Forever, that's the whole point."

Cordelia sighed as she dropped into her chair and leaned her head back. They had been waiting for news from Sunnydale for days, and so far there had been no word. Doyle came up behind her, massing her shoulders as he leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Nothing yet?"

"No," she answered. "I'm worried. I hope they're okay. They'd call right, and let us know if they weren't okay?"

"If who weren't okay?" Kate asked as she walked through the front door.

"My friends," Cordelia answered.

"You thinking road trip, baby?"

"Yeah," she answered.

"Where you off to?" Kate asked.

"I'm going home, to Sunnydale."

"Isn't that where Angel headed to when he just up and disappeared without a word to anybody?"

Doyle rolled his eyes. No matter how many times they tried to let her know Angel only had eyes for Buffy, the girl just never caught on. "You want me to come?"

"I'd like that," she said as she tipped her face up towards his. He leaned over her and kissed her softly.

"Mind if I come along?" Kate interrupted. "I just want to make sure Angel's okay."

"Sure, if you want," Cordy answered as she got up and headed down the stairs. "We'll leave tomorrow morning."

Willow hurried to answer the insistent knocking at the door. She didn't think Xander and Oz would've gotten back so quickly. "You guys forget something?!" she called as she pulled the front door open. "Cordy!" Willow's eyes went wide as she saw her friend standing on the other side of the door with two people she didn't recognize.

"Hey Willow," Cordelia smiled, the two girls embracing each other.

"Come in, come in," Willow rambled, ushering them into the darkened living room.

"What's with all the darkness?" Kate asked.

"Well we have, um," Willow stammered.

"It's okay, Willow, she knows. Speaking of which, Willow, this is Doyle and Kate. Guys, this is Willow."

"Hi, nice to meet you," she shook their hands. "And the darkness, well we have vampires."

"Where is everyone?" Cordelia asked.

"Well Oz and Xander went to go buy some food and stuff, Buffy and Spike are downstairs duking it out."

"And Angel?" Kate interrupted.

"He's with them," Willow answered. "Why don't you guys make yourselves comfy, and I'll go get them." Willow quickly bounded down the basement steps, stopping short on the last step as Spike's body came flying down at her feet.

"Hey cutie," Spike said, rubbing his head.

Willow couldn't help but giggle. "Clobbered you again huh?"

Spike picked himself up off the floor as Buffy and Angel came to join them. "She's a lot stronger than she used to be."

"Well guys, we've got company," Willow informed them.

The four of them trooped up the stairs to join the people in their living room. At the top of the stairs Angel pulled Buffy into his arms, kissing her soundly. She immediately wound her arms around his neck, leaning against him as their lips met repeatedly. "What was that for?" she asked when they finally broke apart.

"Because whoever's upstairs, we don't know how long they'll be here and I don't want to wait to hold you in my arms again."

She smiled against his lips, kissing him fiercely. Her hands roamed underneath his shirt, caressing his skin. He trailed kisses to her neck as he lifted her up, her legs wrapping around his waist.

"Would you two get up here?!" Spike bellowed from upstairs.

"Can't I just kill him?" Buffy asked.

"I've thought about it myself, but let's go see who's come to visit." Angel gave her one more kiss before they walked through the door.

"Buffy! Angel!" Cordelia ran forward, hugging her friend. "You're okay."

"Yea, I guess, kind of," Buffy answered, hugging her back.

"Incoming!" Xander yelled as he and Oz came through the front door. "Hey, it's a party," he said, taking note of all the people in their living room.

"Xander, Buffy, Oz, Spike this is Kate and Doyle."

"Hey, Doyle," Angel said as he hugged Cordelia. "Kate what're you doing here?"

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I haven't heard from you in a while, I got worried."

Spike raised an eyebrow at that, looking from Kate to Buffy. He was fairly certain that this woman was in love with Angel, and if Buffy caught wind of it sparks were going to fly.

"So the Scooby Gang's all back together," Xander observed. "With a couple new members it would seem."

"Nice to meet you two," Buffy began. "I'm gonna go take a shower, I'm all icky after kicking Spike's ass."

"I let you win," Spike smirked.

"Yeah, keep telling yourself that," Buffy called, heading up the stairs.

"She whipped you fair and square," Angel said, supporting his girlfriend.

"You're biased," Spike growled.

"So how long are you guys gonna be here?" Angel asked their visitors, taking the bottle of water Spike offered him.

"Hadn't made any plans really. I just thought to come home, check on you and Buffy, maybe stay a couple days," Cordelia answered. "You know there's a thing called a telephone that you could use. After Doyle's last vision, you had me worried sick when I didn't hear from anyone."

"Do you guys have a place to stay?" Willow asked.

"Of yet, no," Doyle answered. "It was a last minute kind of trip."

Willow looked around at the other inhabitants of the house. "Well if it's okay with everyone, you're welcome to stay here."

"And where are we going to fit everyone?" Spike asked.

"Well, I was thinking Xander could give up his room for Cordy and Kate."

"Where am I supposed to sleep?" Xander complained.

"Down with Spike in his room."

Angel, Oz, and Cordelia all started laughing at the looks of horror on Spike and Xander's faces. "What about Doyle?" Cordelia giggled.

"He can keep them from killing each other," Willow supplied.

Angel smiled at the thought of Spike, Xander and Doyle all sharing a room together. He looked over at Spike, "Would anybody actually mind if Spike killed Xander?"

"Hey!" Xander exclaimed.

The other people in the room with the exception of Doyle and Kate began laughing hysterically. "What's so funny?" Buffy asked, as she entered the room.

"Angel made a joke," Willow said.

"Well, the moon will be rising soon. I'm gonna go downstairs, and lock myself up," Oz said.

Willow took her boyfriend's hand, pulling him back to her for a kiss. "I'll see you in the morning."

"It's a date."

"I'll lock the door behind you mate," Spike said, following Oz.

"I've gotta go pick up Anya, I think I'll stay there tonight. Anybody's welcome to use my room," Xander called as he walked out the door.

Kate and Doyle looked confused, so Willow felt the need to answer. "Oz is a werewolf, tonight's the last night of the full moon."

"Xander and Anya?" Cordelia asked, slightly bewildered.

"They're kinda good for each other actually," Buffy answered. "He helps her with the whole human emotions thing, and he's not quite so annoying anymore."

"I guess demons have that effect on people," Cordy observed, looking up at Doyle.

Willow looked at the other people in the room for confirmation. "Well, I wouldn't know."

"Hey, pet," Spike called as he came up the stairs. "We going or not?"

"I'm coming, I'm coming." Buffy stood up from her perch on the side of the couch. "We're gonna patrol and grab something to eat."

"Want me to come?" Angel asked.

She smiled up at him, kissing him softly. "Why don't you stay here and make sure everybody gets settled? I think Spike and I can handle it."

"Okay." He pulled her back into his arms, kissing her longingly. "I'll see you later."

Spike grabbed Buffy's hand, pulling her out the front door. The two of them started bickering before the door even closed.

"They always like that man?" Doyle asked.

"Oh yeah," Willow answered. "Well Cordy you can stay with me in my room, Kate could take Xander's room, and Doyle you could take the couch."

Doyle looked over at his girlfriend, "Cordelia and I will take Xander's room."

Willow looked slightly surprised. "Okay well then. Kate you can take the couch or stay with me, it's up to you."

Kate looked up at Angel, "The couch is fine." She didn't think she had seen him smile so much. From the moment the two of them had met, he was always cryptic, never willing to share anything about himself. Their first few meetings were awkward at best, but she slowly began to become a part of his world. And then she discovered the reality of what existed in the night. She discovered what he really was.

Everybody here seemed to know that, and accept it. Not only accept it, but there was even another vampire here. And werewolves? Everything she had ever told herself couldn't really exist actually did. The girl named Willow left the room, leaving the four of them to catch up. She listened only partly, gazing mostly at the face she had grown to love. Yes, she admitted to herself, she was in love with him. She had hope before that he might forget about the past, and let his thoughts settle on her. But when she saw the way that he looked at Buffy, she knew he probably didn't even think about her at all. Instead his entire being was absorbed in some nineteen-year-old kid.

Buffy. The name was like a knife through her heart. What kind of name was Buffy anyway? She remembered when she first asked about the girl. It was because only the night before she had encountered Angel after he had just woken up from a dream. It was like he had looked at her, but not really seen her. Then he had kissed her so intensely, and said the name Buffy. When he had realized it was her, he had apologized profusely and never mentioned it again. The next day as she had been helping Cordelia research some demon or other, she had brought up the subject of Buffy. Cordelia had looked at her through narrowed eyes, she had changed a lot since leaving Sunnydale. Loyalty to Buffy immediately sprang forth, as Cordelia studied Kate. "Why do you want to know?"

"Well we were talking the other day, and she kind of came up. I was curious."

"Well if he mentioned her already, I guess I could tell you a little about her. What do you want to know?"

"How they met I guess. Are they together or something?"

Cordelia had gotten a far-away kind of look in her eyes as she remembered the past. "I was a lot different back in Sunnydale, but even then. Buffy and Angel, it was just. Even being in the same room with them, you could feel it."

"What?"

"Love. They loved each other so much. When Angel would walk into the room, Buffy would light up inside. You could see it. Everybody dreams of having what they had. You're lucky if you find a love like that."

"If they love each other so much, then why are they apart?"

"I'm not saying it was an easy relationship. Far from it actually."

"Well, explain it more."

"You know that Angel is a vampire. He's set apart from the rest of them because of his soul. Well as long as there have been vampires, there's been the Slayer. Giles actually does this better than I do. Buffy was, is the Slayer."

"A vampire Slayer?"

"Yeah. It's her job, until she dies that is, to kill vampires and other demons."

"But she didn't kill Angel."

"Not even after he went psycho. She couldn't."

"Went psycho? You're still not telling me everything."

"Angel's cursed with a soul, but there's a hitch to it. If he ever experiences a true moment of happiness, he'll lose his soul. He and Buffy, and well the result wasn't pretty. He lost his soul and he became a monster again. He started killing again. He tried to kill us more than once."

"Why are you helping him now then?"

"Because he got his soul back. Even if none of us could realize it then, I can see it now. He didn't have control over the demon. He's very different. His soul makes him care. Nobody but him knows what it's like to have done all the things he has in the last 244 years and to care about it."

"What happened after he lost his soul?"

"Okay, so Angel loses his soul. He torments us for a good long while, then he decides to try and end the world by awakening a demon that will suck us all into hell. Buffy goes to stop him and she guts the upper hand. She didn't know that we were performing the curse again. Well he pulls out the sword, they fight, he gets his soul back."

"But it's too late?"

"Way too late. So she sends Angel to Hell. I can't even imagine what that must have been like for her."

"That can't be it though. From the look on his face when we were talking the other day, there has to be more."

"He came back from Hell. And there was some other things that went on, but he decided to leave. The self-control in being around her, and not being able to love each other like they used to. I couldn't do it. Well so the mayor of our town decides he wants to be a demon and does this whole Ascension thing. First he wants Buffy out of the way so he and Faith poison Angel to do it."

"What do you mean, poison?"

"Mystical stuff, and Angel's dying. The only thing that can cure him is the blood of the Slayer."

"So she...?"

Cordelia nodded before continuing. "Buffy cures him, big fight with the mayor, he leaves her for LA. End of story."

But it wasn't the end of the story because here she was with Cordelia, Doyle, and Angel sitting in Buffy's house. From the looks on their faces it looked as though they had asked her something while she took her tiny trip down memory lane. "I'm sorry what?"

"Are you hungry?" a strange girl asked her. Kate looked up, realizing that Willow had come back downstairs. Buffy and Spike were also here, along with Xander and another girl.

"Oh, starved," she answered.

"Firing up the barbecue then," Xander exclaimed as everyone stood up to start helping with the food.

Kate helped absent-mindedly, eyes always drifting back to Angel. Cordelia had been right about one thing. The love between him and this girl was an almost tangible thing. Every now and then one of them would look up at the other, and the other person knew. The two of them could speak volumes to each other with just a look, anyone could see that.

Cordelia and Buffy each picked up a bowl of something or other and made their way out onto the deck where Xander and Spike were arguing about the fire in the barbecue. Cordy stopped suddenly, realizing that the only reflection she was seeing in the glass was her own. She opened her mouth, whirling around to face her friend. Buffy realized what she had seen and immediately put her hand over Cordelia's mouth. Their eyes met and Buffy quickly led Cordy up the stairs.

"What just happened?" Anya asked.

Angel, Spike, and the others who knew all exchanged a look. Xander hadn't told Anya, and nobody had informed Cordelia. Angel looked up at Doyle, his blue eyes locked with Angel's and he knew. The half-demon had realized it early on, but he just got his confirmation from that look.

Everyone's eyes shot up when they heard Cordelia scream. "Oh my god!!!!!"

"Shh," Buffy hissed, waving her hands. "Not everybody knows."

"How, and why?!" Cordelia demanded.

They both looked up as Angel opened the door. "Everything okay?"

Cordelia was practically glaring at him and Buffy was trying to calm her down. "Why didn't anybody tell me?"

"This wasn't planned," Angel began. "And we don't want anyone else to know. We haven't even told her mom yet."

"I'll keep my mouth shut," Cordelia promised. "Wait, I can't keep this from Doyle."

"He knows."

"How?!" Buffy and Cordelia asked at the same time.

"The guy's half-demon, what did you expect?!"

"Just, don't tell anyone," Buffy told her.

"I won't."

The three of them rejoined everyone downstairs, avoiding the questioning glances of Kate and Anya. Everyone sat around the outside table, devouring the food Xander and Spike had prepared. Buffy sat on Angel's lap, apart from the others. The two of them were merely gazing into one another's eyes. Music was emanating from the CD player in the living room, the soft notes reaching their ears. Angel stood up, pulling Buffy into his arms as their bodies swayed together.

Moon so bright, night so fine,
Keep your heart here with mine
Life's a dream we are dreaming.
Race the moon, catch the wind,
Ride the night to the end,
Seize the day, stand up for the light
I want to spend my lifetime loving you
If that is all in life I ever do
Heroes rise, heroes fall,
Rise again, win it all,
In your heart, can't you feel the glory?
Through our joy, through our pain,
We can move worlds again
Take my hand, dance with me
I want to spend my lifetime loving you
If that is all in life I ever do
I will want nothing else to see me through
If I can spend my lifetime loving you
Though we know we will never come again
Where there is love, life begins
Over and over again
Save the night, save the day,
Save the love, come what may,
Love is worth everything we pay
I want to spend my lifetime loving you
If that is all in life I ever do
I want to spend my lifetime loving you
If that is all in life I ever do
I will want nothing else to see me through
If I can spend my lifetime loving you

Buffy arched forward against Angel's mouth as his tongue caressed the smooth skin of her belly. She clutched at the sheets as his hands and his mouth wreaked havoc on her senses. They had long since abandoned the people downstairs for the privacy of their own bedroom, their need for each other growing as each moment passed. He was kissing his way up her body in that slow determined way of his.

Buffy buried her hands in his hair, pulling his mouth back up towards her own. His arms slid underneath her back, supporting his weight as her tongue plunged into his mouth. She explored the coolnees of his tongue, his teeth, his lips as he slowly slid inside her. She moaned and arched towards him as his body filled hers, exposing her throat to his gaze.

He kissed her hungrily, his tongue running over the scar on her neck, down her throat, before his mouth fastened on her breast. Her arms wound around his shoulders as she thrust her body up to meet his own. Angel covered her mouth with his own, muffling the sounds of both their cries of pleasure. He moved within her, his hand moving between them to find the little nub that would further her pleasure. She buried her face against the soft flesh of his neck as her body exploded and tightened around him. He arched against her with a final thrust, tightening his hold on her body.

"I love you, Angel," she whispered against his ear, both of them coming back down to earth.

"I know," he answered, kissing her lips softly. Their bodies were still joined together intimately. He gazed down at her face in wonder, smoothing her slightly damp hair off her forehead. He pulled the blankets up around them, resting his head against her chest. Buffy ran her fingers through his hair, caressing his neck and face as they both drifted off to sleep.

Kate threw the blankets off her body. She hadn't been able to sleep. Everyone had gone up to their rooms for sleep, or in Buffy and Angel's case other very audible activities. When she had seen the looks on their faces as they danced, she knew that his curse was no longer an issue with them. She got up from the couch, walking over to the refrigerator for a drink. She heard a noise to her left and spun around.

"Hey," Angel greeted. Her heart almost stopped at the sight of him. He was wearing long black pajama bottoms and a red robe, his silver chain hanging down in front of his muscular chest.

"Hi," she said, in her usual husky voice.

"Can't sleep?"

"Pretty much. So, I guess you and Buffy?"

When he heard her name, his eyes lit up, and he smiled to himself. "Yeah. I can't believe we have this second chance. I figure it's about time we got a break. We've had too many obstacles, and we've managed to overcome them all." "What about the business in L.A., and she's got school?"

"I figure Doyle and Cordelia have it covered. I'm sure there a few demons out there who need redemption, they can help them out."

"And you've been redeemed now?"

"There's still plenty of evil to fight here. Buffy and I are together again, there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

"Oh, well you're happy now. You know, I always had this impression that maybe you and I, well."

"You've been a good friend to me, I appreciate that."

She moved closer to him now. "Just a friend?"

Angel took a step backward, recognizing something in her eyes that he had never seen there before. "Nothing more. I'll see you in the morning," he added, before heading back up the stairs.

Willow held her hands over the necklace she had just put around Buffy's neck. A soft white glow, appeared under her flesh. Her eyes were closed, her lips moving quickly as she chanted softly in Latin. Something seemed to pass through her, and then she opened her eyes and smiled. "We're good here."

Buffy looked from her friend to the small green jewel around her throat. "You sure about this, Will?"

"Positive," she grinned, looking at the three vampires before her. "You guys are the only ones who can take them off. I know it's a big deal, especially for Angel and Spike, but I know this will work. It's not just any old talisman I sent Spike for in that crypt."

"What is it then?" Spike asked, raising the necklace to his gaze.

"It's a piece of the Gem of Amarra."

Spike and Angel both looked at each other. "What?" Buffy asked.

"I thought it wasn't real," Angel whispered.

"It's just a myth," Spike added. The four of them were down in the basement. Willow hadn't told anyone else, except Oz, that she had completed her ritual. She had originally just intended to make the protection gem for Angel, but had quickly changed her plans after Buffy had been turned. "Look we've been busy the last couple days, what with house guests and all, but tomorrow morning when the sun rises. You can see it, all of you can see it. In the meantime I suggest we go out and have fun tonight. Oz is out of the cage, and this is like the last night for you guys. Well unless you want to keep with the darkness, I'd get it. This is just like an added plus, catch a matinee now and again."

"Thank you Willow," Buffy said, hugging her friend tightly.

As Buffy and Angel walked hand in hand on the beach that night, he could sense something was troubling her. "Might as well ask me."

She stopped and looked up at him, "I wonder if there was anybody in your life."

"No," he answered.

"There was," she began.

He put his finger over her lips, "You don't have to talk about it."

"I feel like I owe you an explanation."

"You don't. I told you to get on with your life, because I thought I couldn't give you everything you wanted."

"I only wanted you."

"I know." He leaned down to kiss her, when a whooshing sound disrupted the silence and an arrow appeared through Angel's left shoulder. He tore the wood out of his flesh, the both of them looking up and down the beach for their attacker. He spun around when he heard Buffy's grunt of pain, and she fell to the sand.

Kate came walking out of the darkness, a crossbow trained on his heart. He knew she was an excellent shot, and could easily kill him. "You know, you just had to mess everything up and come back here. Everything was fine the way it was. I thought about maybe killing her, but no killing you is much better. She gets to live without you now." She had her back turned to Buffy, and didn't see when she got up in vamp face.

"Okay, that hurt," Buffy growled.

Kate back-handed Angel with her weapon before turning it on Buffy. "Oh, so the two of you thought you would have forever? Guess again."

"You don't really think you're gonna kill me with that thing, do you?" Her finger moved over the trigger, and the arrow flew into Buffy's heart. She took the piece of wood out of her flesh, throwing it to the ground. "Kinda tickles a little." Kate stood stunned on the sand, and Buffy was upon her before she had time to move. They fought for control of the crossbow, Buffy gaining the upperhand and using the weapon to break Kate's neck.

Buffy backed away from the body on the sand, and instantly found herself in Angel's arms. "It's okay," he soothed. "She was trying to kill us, it's not your fault."

"Look's like Willow's magic had some unexpected bonuses."

"Not really," he admitted, as they walked back towards the house.

"What do you mean?"

"The Gem of Amarra is supposed to make a vampire invincible."

"And Spike has a piece of it now?"

Buffy stepped out into the sunlight, feeling its warmth upon her face once again. It had only been a few weeks since she had been made into a vampire, but the feel of the sun on her skin again was unexplainable. She twirled around in the sand, her arms held out to her sides as she spun. She threw her arms around Willow's neck, the two of them giggling as they fell down.

"I wonder if I'll freckle," Spike mused, staring out at the ocean. "Where's Yoda?"

Everyone turned around as Angel slowly walked into the light after more than two hundred years of darkness. He looked up at the sun in wonder, then at the gem around his throat. The birds were flying overhead, soaring through the crystal blue sky.

"You're incredibly pale," Oz observed, taking Willow's hand.

"Are you okay?" Cordelia asked, puzzled at the look on his face.

"Just give him a minute," Doyle answered her, understanding what Angel was feeling, and how he couldn't completely express it in words.

"He's very pale," Oz said again. "Paler than most people."

Angel walked through the sand, watching in wonder as the sun shone down. He turned, and saw Buffy standing with Spike. She smiled at him, understanding the awe on his features. He held out his hand to her, and she immediately went to his side. He pulled her into his arms, kissing her softly. "You lied," he whispered against her lips.

"What?"

"You look beautiful in the sunlight." She smiled, kissing him back as she remembered that time in the graveyard when he admitted he was jealous.

"Oh great, I've seen enough," Spike said, strolling down towards the water.

"What's with him?" Buffy asked.

"He's just not share guy," Willow answered. "But I know he's grateful."

"How?" Xander asked. "Will, how do you know he's grateful."

"Because he said thank you."

Everyone turned and laughed as they walked along the sand. Buffy and Angel lingered behind, kissing and holding each other.

"I love you," he smiled down at her.

She laced her fingers through his, as they walked together in the sunlight.

The End

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